Software.org: the BSA Foundation Works with Girls Who Code to Close the Tech Gender Gap
Washington, DC 2017 Summer Immersion Program kicks off today
WASHINGTON — June 26, 2017 — Software.org: the BSA Foundation proudly welcomes 20 young women to its Girls Who Code 2017 Summer Immersion Program in Washington, DC. The program, in which DC-area high school students will spend seven weeks learning the fundamentals of computer science, from building a webpage to making a robot dance, begins today. The goal: to empower young women to pursue careers in STEM fields.
The technology industry faces a growing workforce development crisis. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer science-related jobs available and only 400,000 US computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. Tech also has a gender gap – women are on track to fill only 3 percent of those 1.4 million jobs, and despite the increasing need for computing skills, the number of women majoring in computer science is declining. Encouraging more women to enter the field could help fill the pipeline shortage.
Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit dedicated to closing the gender gap through coding programs aimed at high school girls. Research shows that while girls’ interest in STEM drops throughout their academic careers, the largest fall happens between the ages of 13 and 17. Girls Who Code currently hosts summer immersion programs across 10 states and after-school clubs in all 50 states.
“We spend a good part of every year talking to policymakers about how to prepare America’s workforce for the jobs of the future,” said Chris Hopfensperger, Executive Director of Software.org: the BSA Foundation. “In the summer, we get the chance to actually try to grow that workforce ourselves. We are delighted to join forces with Girls Who Code to open a window for these young women to the many amazing opportunities in tech. The software industry needs coders with diverse perspectives and backgrounds, and we hope the girls are inspired this summer to focus on STEM and consider careers in tech.”
Software.org’s students, most of whom have little to no previous computer science experience, will spend more than 300 hours this summer immersed in the world of coding, with real-world projects in art, storytelling, website development, app creation, robotics, video games, and more. They will also participate in a Mentorship Day at Microsoft, face off in a congressional hackathon, and hear from tech industry experts from IBM, Promontory Financial Group, and SpaceX, among other activities.
“We know that many girls are interested in STEM, and we need to encourage those interests and inspire them to pursue their passions,” said Victoria Espinel, President of Software.org: the BSA Foundation, and President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance. “The software industry is highly innovative and moving quickly. Software is improving our economy and our daily lives – and we need more women so we can be even better. I am very excited to work with Girls Who Code to continue making strides to close the technology gender gap.”
Embarking on its third year, the Girls Who Code DC Summer Program already has had a proven impact. Prior to Software.org’s launch in April 2017, BSA | The Software Alliance sponsored this DC classroom and has supported the Girls Who Code DC program since its creation. At the end of the 2016 summer program, 71 percent of the graduates from the BSA program surveyed said they were likely to major or minor in computer science, and 88 percent said they were likely to pursue a career in technology or a computing field. Nationwide, 70 percent of graduates reported changing academic paths because of Girls Who Code.
“Girls Who Code provided me with a community of like-minded girls who deal with the same problems I’ve had to deal with. It made me realize that every time I doubted myself or underestimated myself, it was not because I was not capable of accomplishing the task at hand – it was because I didn’t have the confidence to believe in myself or take a chance on myself,” said Nidhi Allani, a 2016 BSA alumna. “After seven weeks in this program I am proud to call myself a programmer. I will go on for the rest of my career with this vital skill that has become such an integral part of our society.”
This year, Software.org and five other groups will host DC Summer Immersion Programs to teach a total of 120 girls. Software.org hopes to continue making a profound impact on girls interested in STEM and encouraging them to enter careers in software.